Power of the people behind Edina’s 66 West approval


Remarks to the congregation at Edina Community Lutheran Church by Lee Blons after the Edina City Council vote Sept. 2 allowed 66 West to move forward

Martin Luther King felt that the lesson of the Good Samaritan is revealed in the question that we choose to ask ourselves. Do we ask, “If I stop to help this man, what might happen to me?” Or do we ask, “If I don’t stop to help, what might happen to him?”

A parallel question is often asked when affordable housing is proposed: People ask, “If we build this housing, what might happen to me?” Fear sometimes becomes overwhelming and rules the day.

Edina had only approved 11 units of affordable housing since 1996 – 11 units in almost 20 years.

Until that Tuesday night.

What was different this time?

You heard the cry of young people who were without a home. And having heard the cry, you did not turn away.

You said, ‘We may not be the largest or the most affluent congregation in Edina but we will lead the way.’ As a congregation, you committed your leadership, your members, your resources and your prophetic voice.

You joined with Beacon, where congregations gather their voices together so that we have the power and resources to change our communities for the better. Together we built a collaborative of congregations right here in Edina: St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer and Richfield United Methodist gathered their voices in unison with ECLC.

We became 360 strong—360 individuals spoke on behalf of 66 West to the public officials over the course of several months.

It has been truly a humbling and grace-filled experience to see so many come to testify, not out of fear (“If we build this housing, what might happen to me?”).

Instead you asked, “If we don’t build this housing, what will happen to a young person without a home?”

That Tuesday, it was powerful to hear Edina council members share stories of young people they knew who had lived with homelessness.

That night your pastor Erik Strand called so eloquently for the council to find that creating housing for homeless youth was in fact the highest and best use of a prime piece of real estate in Edina.

It was an extraordinary moment when the council voted to respond with love and compassion rather than fear or profit.

Yet the council’s approval is just the first step. Now we must gather these voices for change, this outpouring of good will, to secure the public and private resources to build and operate 66 West. We still have a journey in front of us and we don’t know how long or how difficult it may be.

King said that churches should not be afraid to talk about power, too often misunderstood. He said, “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.”

You are a powerful congregation with a prophetic voice.

We are so proud of your leadership in our collaborative of congregations that are committed to ending homelessness.